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Ohio can deliver a message that can be heard across the country

As Ohioans, we're proud of our diverse state.  We have great cities, some of the most productive farming communities in America and growing suburban neighborhoods. In the past few weeks I have been in steel mills outside Cleveland and in the hills of Appalachia along the Ohio River.

Our state's diversity also extends to politics. Ohio is not what they call a Blue state or a Red state: it's a purple state with nearly equal proportions of Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

This political diversity leads to close elections, and in a country that is pretty much equally divided, Ohio often plays a key role in national elections. In fact, it has all come down to our state in two of the last three presidential races.  

That explains why President Obama will be on the campaign trail in Ohio again this week, and why we'll see the two major candidates so often in the months to come.

The stakes are high in November. Our state and our nation are confronting a stagnant economy that isn't creating the jobs we badly need. Here in Ohio, nearly half a million of our friends and neighbors are out of work. Meanwhile, the price of gas has nearly doubled since the president took office and we continue to suffer from high foreclosure rates and a housing market that hasn't turned the corner.

Nationwide, we have now endured more than three straight years of unemployment above 8 percent – the longest stretch since the Great Depression. Unfortunately, youth unemployment is twice that high. A record number of women are living in poverty. Too many veterans come home from serving our nation to find that no jobs await them. Too many families in Ohio and across America are seeing their household budgets squeezed like never before.

And what have we seen from Washington in the last three years? The largest government since World War II. A federal balance sheet spinning out of control with trillion dollar-plus deficits and record debt. New regulations and red tape that create layers of bureaucracy while killing jobs – including jobs right here in Ohio. A federal takeover of health care that raises taxes and gives government an even bigger role in the economy.

American families are worried. Many are hurting. Most of our fellow citizens feel that America is on the wrong track. As parents we are concerned that the country we leave for our children and grandchildren won't be as prosperous or secure as the one we inherited. Meanwhile, the Obama administration seems out of ideas and out of touch with the realities in Ohio.

Four years ago, the country had high hopes for President-elect Barack Obama. He didn't have a lot of experience – even his own running mate had questioned if he was ready for the job – but he delivered eloquent speeches with soaring rhetoric. But now the president has to run on his record. And he will have to explain to the American people why his vision for bigger government, more spending, and higher taxes will work over the next four years when it hasn't worked in the past three and a half years.

We are fortunate as Ohioans to play a critical role in choosing our next president. And we will have a clear choice. Mitt Romney's record of achievement in both the private and public sectors makes him one of the most qualified candidates for the office in modern history. He started a company, made it a success and created thousands of jobs. He saved the Olympic Games from scandal and mismanagement. He governed a state effectively, working with both Democrats and Republicans to close a $3 billion deficit and root out waste, while cutting taxes to help grow the economy.

Governor Romney offers a proven record of accomplishment and a vision for a stronger America. He has proposed a bold agenda to reduce the size of government, reform the tax code, and get spending under control. He will strengthen America at home and abroad. He will tackle the tough problems that President Obama has ignored.

Not since 1980, when Ronald Reagan challenged Jimmy Carter, has America had the chance to make such a fundamental change in direction. This November, Ohio can help deliver a message that will be heard all over the country: A better America begins now.

Republican Rob Portman represent Ohio in the United States Senate.